I think I should establish something here: If a genie popped out of my just-finished pickle jar right now and granted me three wishes, I would have a hard time not saying, “Please make Shannon Hale move into the house across the street!” And then my next wish would be that Shannon Hale would be my best friend. And then my last wish would be that I could grow up to be just like her. (Let’s not quibble about the fact that I have already, theoretically, grown up.)
Now, re-entering reality… It is unlikely there are any genies in my pickle jars, my peanut butter jars, or even my honey jars, so I’m probably out of luck. And I probably shouldn’t be spending my wishes all on Shannon Hale. … Maybe just one?
Given my adoration for Shannon Hale, you can probably imagine that I enjoyed Palace of Stone, of which I received an ARC last week. (I was jumping up and down all day when I discovered I’d won it. Then I was jumping up and down—with book in hand—all day when I actually got it in the mail.)
Well, I did enjoy it. In beautiful Shannon Hale fashion, the story was both lyrical and fun. Miri in the middle of a revolution just made sense; she’s a person who looks at the world to discover how her presence can improve it. I think we could all use a little more of that. I also loved the Rhetoric rules she learned and put into practice, keeping with the rules of Conversation and Diplomacy she learned in Princess Academy. I kind of want to type up all those rules and put them up as a reminder on my wall. Or on the walls in lots of public places. Or on every “comment” form on every controversial online article ever.
But what I was thinking about most as I read it was first love. We have so many young adult novels that center around first loves—and make them last forever. As if the person you fall in love with at age sixteen is the person you’ll love when you’re ninety.
I hope you won’t consider it a spoiler when I tell you that Miri meets someone else who is fascinating and interested in her—and at the same time Miri and Peder seem headed in different directions. Who will she end up with? I won’t tell you; that would be a spoiler.
So I found myself torn, at times, thinking how much I love Peder and his solid steadiness like the stone he works with. But in real life, when you are so young, just a teenager, there’s still so much growth left to do before you can even get a sense of who you are. How can you choose someone so young? But on the other hand, love that lasts is absolutely a decision you make; it will not always be easy, no matter how fabulous it was in the beginning. So can’t you decide that your first love, that guy you fell for at sixteen, is the one you’ll love forever?
Peder. Timon. Peder. Timon.
My husband was my first love—at nineteen, not sixteen—so I can vouch that it can work out marvelously. Nope, I definitely can’t knock first love. It’s good stuff. And I admit that in books I’m (almost) always rooting for it. But there is something bittersweet as well about the idea of letting it go* and choosing a second or a third or a fifteenth love.**
Did I mention I’m not going to tell you who she ends up with, though? You’ll just have to read it and find out.
*Ah, how to insert a serious caveat without getting up on my soapbox? Let’s just say quickly that I only consider it bittersweet if the “letting go” occurs before the “committing and getting married” portion of the story. “Letting go” afterwards is no longer bittersweet—it’s just tragic (no hatemail please—I know it’s sometimes the best solution, etc. etc., but it’s still tragic). The end.
**Although perhaps if you’re on #15, you should be a little more selective about who you fall in love with?